Nelly, a Multi-Function Prep Room.
Nelly is our multi-function prep room, built on the chassis of a mobile site office over a period of 6 months in 2016, you can read all about her conversion below. Fitted out with a sink, complete with hot and cold water, a 2 burner hob as well as a fridge and freezer, we are now able to produce all our charcuterie and jams in style. She is also used to house our Grainfather brewing system, allowing us to brew any beer we desire using the all grain method. We also use Nelly as our butchery once our pigs and sheep have been slaughtered and finally, in March 2017, we ran our smoking and curing course in the comfort of Nelly. For more details of Nelly's story, keep on reading.
The Story Behind Nelly.
Given our love of all things food, we decided that we needed a dedicated food prep area at Pool Cottage. However, extending our existing kitchen wasn't viable and given that we made farm buildings, it made sense to build a kitchen ourselves. Much discussion ensued and it was agreed that our new kitchen would be a larger version of the gypsy caravan chicken house.
We started the planning in early Febuary 2016, debating whether to buy a chassis from an establised manufacturer, build our own from scratch, or base the caravan on an existing trailer chassis. In the end, it was none of the above.
For many years an old mobile buiding site office had sat, sad and neglected in our nieghbours field. "Why not use the chassis from that" asked Ruth, "because it'll be rotten" replied Andy, but we went to look anyway. On inspection, the roof and floor were rotten, but the chassis looked rusty but solid. More debate followed and after parting with £150 the office was ours. All we had to do was move it to Pool Cottage!
The 25th of Febuary 2016 dawned bright and sunny. The tyres of the site office were pumped up (they even stayed up) and our quad was hooked up. With 4 wheel drive and low ratio selected, he moved for the first time in over 10 years. We turned in a wide arc and headed for the field gate, disaster, both the quad and the office sank upto their axles in mud, no amount of manouvering would extricate us from the mire.
Enter Sir Edgar and this trusty steed; Massey of Ferguson. The quad's winch was attached and Edgar pulled us free with ease. We bid Sir Edgar farewell and continued our quest to reach Pool Cottage. Just over 100 metres later, we reach journeys end, our next project had arrived at his new home.
Arrival at Pool Cottage
Some TLC is Needed
We started to clear all the debris out and soon decided that a new floor and roof would be needed and the priority would be the floor as this was the most unsafe. The next few weeks were spent cutting, grinding, cursing, wire brushing, more cursing and finally fitting the new floor and painting the chassis. The result was a solid foundation for the conversion. Next came the roof, which was made of rotted ply covered with leaky galvanized sheets. This was all removed, a number of the supporting beams replaced and a new inner roof of fresh treated ply was created.
During this period of renovation our male site office also underwent gender re-alignment as he became a she and was christened "Nelly Dean" after Ruth's maternal Grandmother. But what was Nelly's true identity, was she about to emerge from the crysalis of a site office grub, to become a gypsy caravan, a shepherds hut or even a mock railway carriage?
The answer was an amalgamation of all three. We agreed that the new roof should extend out, to form an area similar to the rear of an old fashioned railway guards van, complete with decked area. This would remove the box like appearance and give Nelly a shepherds hut appearance too. The roof itself would be made from curved corrugated sheets coated in a dark green plastisol coating, much like a gypsy caravan. This was custom designed and shaped by the wonderful folks at ExcelClad based in Tilstock. The result, we hoped, would be Nelly. Someone unique, someone you couldn't label - just like her namesake.
it was obvious that the original metal door and perspex windows would have to be replaced and what was to be done with that ugly blue exterior? We settled on the idea of making our own windows and doors which would be custom sized, complete with leaded glass. Whilst this sounded simple enough, it turned out to be a steep learning curve, which had to account for both the internal and external finishes for Nelly. We settled on a vertical "v" board cladding for the exterior which we would paint in cream complete with green edging to match the new roof.
A New Window
The New Door and Frame in the Workshop
The Door and Decking Together
Cladding Around the New Window
Once the exterior was completed, it was time to consider where Nelly would live, what groundworks would be necessary and what services she would need. The obvious place for Nelly to live was in the paddock near the orchard and we would need mains water and electricity as well as gas for a hob and water heater. Mains water was brought up from the house, while the electrics were fed from the nissan hut. Finally, gas would be delivered via propane cylinders. The groundworks completed, it was time to move Nelly to her new location. Planned in minute detail, the move went perfectly.
Now Nelly was in situ, it was time to turn our attention to her interior. We set about battening the walls ready for the internal cladding, fitting the electrical junction box and wiring for lights and sockets. Water supplies were then made ready for the eventual fitting of the kitchen area, including the sink and boiler. Once the first fix was complete, we clad the interior. Using a production line system, the cladding was primed and painted 6 lengths at a time and then fitted using our trusty nail gun. The walls and the roof were finished in just 3 days, including trim and skirting. For added insulation, the roof void was packed with sheeps wool, which keeps Nelly cool on the hottest days and snug as a bug on the coldest.
With the cladding complete, we could now fit the floor covering and build the kitchen area. The floor is an oak board effect cushion flooring, which looks so real, having fooled a few visitors at first sight. Not only does it look amazing, it's easy to clean, which is what you need in a multi-function prep room. The kitchen consists of a single oak effect worktop, with built-in sink and two ring gas hob. The boiler sits over the worktop and under is a freezer and 3 cupboards. Having designed the layout of the kitchen in detail, we were able to make and fit all the cupboards ourselves. The sink is a hand made ceramic single drainer manufactured in the UAE. We acquired it from Stella over at Tartandragon, swapping it for a steady stream of eggs! With the worktop and sink in place, the boiler and hob were connected and checked for leaks. The hot tap was turned on, the boiler fired and Nelly had hot water, result. After such success, we tried the hob, which also lit first time. To celebrate, there was only one thing to do, and that was to make our first cup of tea in Nelly. Now that was a good cuppa.
That's a brief tale of the making of Nelly, from Febuary to September 2016. The story doesn't tell of the "discussions", changes of plan, cuts & bruises and blood, sweat & tears. Nor does it consider the sleepless nights thinking of Nelly! Is she worth it ... of course she is.